Monday, January 27, 2020

Reader's Diary - Lise De Young: Welcome Home

 Lise De Young's short story "Welcome Home" is a master class in establishing mood. There's an air of mystery and anxiety throughout the whole thing. At one point she simply writes "Panic." as a full sentence and I felt it. Had De Young not taken the time to grow the mood previously, I'm not sure that it would have worked but here it did. Like faking a smile when you're already happy and somehow you become even more happy.

Anyway, it takes some pretty neat twists and while there are still some mysteries to be unraveled, enough is revealed to make it a complete piece. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Reader's Diary #2128- Marc Andreyko, Don McGregor, Bart Sears: Blade Blood and Chaos

Image result for blade blood and chaosI probably wasn't as excited as most when Marvel Studios announced that they'd be revamping Blade with a new movie. I was excited, I suppose that Mahershala Ali would be taking the title role, as he's a great actor, but shamefully I was pretty in the dark about the character. I still haven't seen the Wesley Snipes films and I'd never read any Blade comics. He may have popped up in a cameo or something in some other comics, but I can't recall any.

So I thought I'd remedy that with the collection Blade: Blood and Chaos (originally released in the 90s). Yeah, these were awful.

The first Blood arc wasn't horrendous. It was set in New Orleans, which is always cool, and the story was passable, but the art left a lot to be desired (looked rushed), and worst of all it was cancelled after three issues with a huge cliffhanger.

The next Chaos arc wasn't, unfortunately, cancelled. This thing is a mess from start to finish. The art is bad, the dialogue is ridiculous, and the story is a convoluted to the point of being incomprehensible.

I suppose I got a bit more insight into the character's origins but man, any character deserved better than this. The only bonus? Marvel Studios has a pretty low bar to do better than this.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Reader's Diary #2127- László Krasznahorkai: I Don't Need Anything From Here

It's not unusual for flash fiction to blur the lines between short story and poetry, but I still prefer those that have a plot (and a resolution for that matter, otherwise it seems like an introduction to a longer piece).

László Krasznahorkai's "I Don't Need Anything From Here" however definitely falls further into the poetry side despite the New Yorker's labeling it as flash fiction. Actually, it's more like a personal mantra or prayer (complete with religious themes of the afterlife). Perhaps there's a hint of plot in the very last line, but that's generous.

Whatever it is, it's pleasant and some would even say beautiful.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Reader's Diary #2126- Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder: The Memory Police

Yoko Ogawa's The Memory Police had such an unusual premise that I was entranced. Essentially there's an island on which things randomly start disappearing. Not disappearing exactly but rather start being erased from memory and followed up by people getting rid of the forgotten things. The reason and exact science of what happens remains elusive. There are some, now unfortunate, souls on the island however who don't forget. These are rounded up by the dreaded memory police. The narrator of this tale decides to hide one of these folks, a la Anne Frank, in a secret room in her house.

Though I enjoyed it, it would be a hard book to recommend. It's bound to be too frustrating for a lot of readers. It has the feel of a parable or a metaphor for something but I can't put my finger on it. I would like to find another reader to hear their theories. Throughout, mine changed. Was it something about those ideas that get edited away during the writing of a book, forever forgotten? Is it something about losing our individuality in love? Is it about the ephemeral nature of life itself?

Answers do not not come. The mystery, combined with Ogawa's rich but accessible descriptions, held me much longer than I would have thought. Still, I'd not judge anyone who gave up on it or who were angered by the ending.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Reader's Diary #2125- Jerome Stern: Morning News

There's a line, a word really, in the first paragraph of Jerome Stern's flash fiction "Morning News" that I cannot shake for how much I like it. The narrator has just gotten bad news, clearly has a very short time to live. Then: "The doctor, embarrassed, picks me up off the floor and I stagger to my car."

What business does the doctor have being embarrassed? Like there's something unreasonable about this guy's reaction. Is the narrator projecting? Does the doctor deliver so much bad news that this particular reaction is the most undignified he's ever seen? How much do I love embarrassed here?

The story overall is wonderful. It should be bleak but I found it darkly hilarious. Like there even is a proper way to deal with death? Or with life either for that matter.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Reader's Diary #2124- Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: Bad Weekend

I don't know why it's striking me so odd that I just found Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' graphic novel Bad Weekend good. Maybe it's my personality, maybe it's the nature of book blogging, but I tend to want to label things as great or terrible. Bad Weekend didn't strike me as either of those things. Good seems almost insulting? Or as a review, lazy?

I enjoyed the characters in Bad Weekend the most. It's told from the perspective of a reluctant chaperone for a cantankerous old comics legend to a local convention. The legend, Hal Crane, reminded me a hybrid of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and a few others whose talents and amazing past work too often provide excuses for currently shitty behaviours and personalities. So not a likeable character by any stretch but a wholly plausible one.

The story though didn't overly excite me. Again, it was good, and gave a little insight into Hal as a person. Plus, the art was realistic and gritty with muted colours which complimented the tone and pace of the story. I'd be hard pressed to find any fault except that it didn't personally thrill me as a package.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Reader's Diary #2123- Daniel David Moses: Coyote City

A few years ago I created a list of plays that I felt I should have read but had not yet gotten around to reading. I worked away at this list, not religiously or anything, but tracking them down on occasion and tackling them when the mood struck:

1. Ann-Marie MacDonald- Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)
2. Joseph Kesselring- Arsenic and Old Lace
3.Thornton Wilder- Our Town
4. Oscar Wilde- The Importance of Being Earnest
5. Tennessee Williams- A Streetcar Named Desire
6. Eugene O'Neill- The Iceman Cometh
7. Edward Albee- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
8. David Mamet- Glengarry Glen Ross
9. Tom Stoppard- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
10. Neil Simon- Lost in Yonkers
11. Agatha Christie- The Mousetrap
12. Moliere- Tartuffe
13. George Ryga- The Ecstasy of Rita Joe
14. Daniel David Moses- Coyote City
15. Sally Clark- Moo
16. Anton Chekov- The Cherry Orchard
17. Euripides- Medea
18. Tony Kushner- Angels in America
19. Lorraine Hansberry- A Raisin in the Sun
20. Bertolt Brecht- Galileo

I've enjoyed most (not so much Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?) but a favourite was also one of the hardest to track down: Daniel David Moses' Coyote City. It's funny, smart, thought-provoking, and creative.

The story revolves around a lovestruck young woman who gets a phone call to reconnect with her boyfriend in Toronto. The only issue? He's been dead for six months. Is she crazy or is there something supernatural going on? At the end, comparing the situation to tales of Coyote's trip to the land of the dead (the cast is from a First Nation), Moses made me really consider what the truth was and if it even mattered. Themes of grief, memory, legacy, and love abound.

Now I'd like to see just one of these performed!

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Reader's Diary #2122- Megan James: Innsmouth

Megan James's Innsmouth, a comedic Lovecraftian graphic novel, is excellent. It honours the source material (but not the man behind it; more on that in a bit) while infusing the weird brand of horror with a cool story, wonderful characters, and humour.

In the introduction, James acknowledges that Lovecraft was a xenophobic twat but the man himself put his ideas into the public domain, so they were fresh for the reclamation. And reclaim them she did. Thankfully she salvaged the weird sea/inter-dimensional themes, but then made one of the main protagonists a smart, hijab-wearing, Muslim. Further, her know-it-all/know-nothing and hapless coworker, I believe is meant as a stand-in for Lovecraft himself (which is perfect).

The art is great, with a style that is consistent with the tone and pace, though I wish for the more way-out there sequences it was a bit brighter and/or glossier. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Reader's Diary #2121- Nnedi Okorafor (writer), Tana Ford and James Devlin (artists): Laguardia

Quickly becoming a fan of Nnedi Okorafor's work, Laguardia, a sci-fi graphic novel, further entrenches my appreciation.

The cover of Laguardia shows a pregnant woman protesting with a bunch of aliens (the outer space kind) who also happen to be aliens (in the immigration sense). One of the many signs reads, "Immigrants Make America Great!" and most modern readers know why such a book would be relevant today.

The fascinating, maybe fascinatingly depressing, thing is that the book doesn't really present a dystopia at least compared to how I think it would go if aliens did actually try to move to Earth. Considering how poorly we treat humans, I think if aliens were left alive, left to protest, that in itself would sadly be progress.

On top of the obvious statements about open borders and injustice, Okorafor also delves into some of the more complex issues. When people do immigrate, for instance, are they aware of, are they sensitive to the locals who themselves may be mistreated? I couldn't help but think about refugees to Canada and whether or not they consider the complex relationships between the indigenous peoples and colonizers.

She also works in a love story.

Laguardia is full of thought and imagination and is wildly entertaining. Better still, it's complimented wonderfully with rich art and colours by Tana Ford and James Devlin.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Reader's Diary #2120- Lauren Fox: Happy This, Congratulations That

I so badly wanted Lauren Fox's "Happy This, Congratulations That" to keep going.

But, I suppose, that's as much as praise for the preceding story as it is critique of the abrupt ending.

She does such a wonderfully engaging job of developing the narrator's character, supported with a wealth of realistic details. It could be on the depressing side (the narrator recounts her divorce and how she went from dental hygienist to working in a mall bakery). But on the other hand, I sensed that she found sound solace in her observations while working there: we're all miserable and going through crap.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Reader's Diary #2119- George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott (writers), Harmony Becker (art): They Called Us Enemy

While Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott assisted with the writing, the graphic novel They Called Us Enemy is George Takei's memoir detailing his time spent as a child in American concentration camps; a result of racism and wartime fear.

While definitely not a "both sides" sort of book, it's quite notable for the balance. Presenting himself as an optimistic sort of kid who could find positives anywhere, even as far as fond memories inside the camps, he (with subtle but strong emotions depicted in facial expressions by Harmony Becker) manages to show the stress and hurt of his parents as they coped during such traumatic times. Of course, as he grew older and talked more openly with his parents, Takei quickly understood the injustice of it all.

Likewise, he's takes a nuanced and balanced approach in his reflectionson those interred Japanese-Americans who signed loyalty oaths to to the US versus those who chose not to.

While he doesn't belabor the point, Takei acknowledges that this important piece of history is just as relevant now as it ever was, perhaps even more so under Trump's crazy, fascist, and racist rule.